Countless and timeless images of children at play in joyful abandon span cultures and generations. We picture the child with fresh, exciting moments of curiosity, concentration, and discovery, finding the opportunity for satisfaction and solace or simply letting stimulation and energy capture his or her desires. Contrast these images with the drum of fear, worry, and anger; the sting of seriousness; the syndrome of chronic exhaustion; and the pressures of diminishing free time – so blatant in the 24/7 working world.
The Scriptures record how the prophet Zechariah foresaw the ideal society of a restored Jerusalem, prospering with a city full of men and women with staff in hand, “and the streets ... full of boys and girls playing” (Zechariah 8:4, 5), everyone content and happy.
Looking at our own times, we too often see a quest for advancement and prestige in society and commerce, a compulsion for “greatness,” casting a shadow over the natural childlike expectation of good and delight in us. We wonder, Is it still possible to experience joy without foreboding, awareness without caution, and responsiveness without imposed strictures? Have the elements of freedom and play been squelched by the constraints and labors of survival and the jealousy of material purpose?
The ancient pleas of the disciples to their Master as to “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” reveal how the patterns of human concern are ever the same. Jesus’ response provides fundamental teaching on this matter. Inviting those around him to consider the little child in their midst, he said: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (see Matthew 18:1-4). Jesus pronounced the greatness of childlikeness.
“Except ye be converted” echoes a challenge to mortal efforts of self-will, pride, jealousy, and boasted intellect. Christian Science teaches plainly that conversion is the changing of one’s standpoint from a material to a spiritual basis of trust and reasoning. This conversion must accept the sons and daughters of God as His spiritual image and likeness only, under the jurisdiction of God’s government and care, designed by Him to include all the elements of fresh expectation, satisfying purpose, and natural fulfillment. A savor of God’s heavenly kingdom in us!
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, advocated the protection of childhood purpose with its inventiveness, innocence, and hopefulness. The tenor of her teachings promotes the yielding and trust of childlikeness as foundational for everyone to find and experience their heritage of satisfaction and dominion. Echoing Jesus’ promise of a better life, she wrote in her companion textbook to the Bible, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea” (pp. 323-324). Being childlike and receptive will move us not toward the elementary or immature idea but to the “advanced idea,” a more divinely influenced experience with a basis for success, contentment, and well-being.
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